Rather than just tell you we had another boring day of t-shirt shopping in Jamaica and failed at finding a cool XXXL that fit my husband, I want to share with our readers the little bits and pieces of Jamaican culture we enjoyed in our very touristy visit to Falmouth.
First the Royal Caribbean built pier area is lovely, and for those looking to pick up a quick Jamaincan souvenir before or after an excusion or during a quick trip off the ship, there isn’t much reason to venture out of the Royal Caribbean area. However, we wanted to see the real town, so my daughter and I went one block out of the dock area to see a bit of the real town . The town is definitely in need of some economic enhancements, and perhaps over time, the Royal Caribbean port in Falmouth will bring some more development to the town. My daughter and I decided that we wanted to support the town’s independent vendors and so we shopped at one of the little street vendor’s shops. We found a Usain Bolt t-shirt and a couple of other items from a very nice lady. We also wanted some spices to take home and she sent us to the little grocery story, but not being familiar with what to look for, we headed back down the block of street vendors and back to the port shop area. Along the way, we called it running the gauntlet, because we had to fend of every kind of sales pitch from art work, to t-shirts, to hair braiding. My daughter said next time she’s wearing her hair in a bun and not wearing a bright t-shirt. But we got to see a little bit of what life is like in a small town in Jamaica.
If t-shirts are any indication, the three things that people most associate with Jamaica are Bob Marley, Usain Bolt and “Weed.” You might also throw in a laid back relaxed attitude, but that might also come from the last of the three. The lady that sold us the t-shirts also had “weed” t-shirts and when we joked about them, her response was “Hey, its Jamaica, Mon”. Just to be clear we didn’t see any actual “weed” and no one tried to sell us any, but the “weed” t-shirts are apparently very popular among tourists. According to Frommer’s Travel Guide it is still illegal in Jamaica and even possessing a small amount can land you in jail. According to our T-shirt sales lady “You can’t smoke on the street, but no body gonna care if you smoke it in your house.”
Wanting to buy something that portrayed a different side of Jamaica, we sought out another Usain Bolt T-shirt or something representing Jamaican track. We were all mesmerized over the last two Olympics by the seemingly easy victories of Bolt in the sprinting events. In the little shops in the Royal Caribbean area they had several different version of the Jamaican track uniform shirt. We got one of those for my son the football player, hoping that just having the colors might ad some speed to his game.
We also got a little bit of Jamaican food culture. In the Royal Caribbean port area there was a shop that sold the traditional Jamaican Patty, a savory meat filled pastry, colored often with turmeric. The patties are a combination of a traditional English Pastry and the spices and influences of India, in curry and cumin, and Africa in the Cayenne peppers. Many of the shops also sold curry powders. jerk spices, and hot sauce. We brought home quite a few different Jamaican flavors that we will get to enjoy over the next year.
We also enjoyed some music and art along the way. Jamaica is famous for its reggae music, within that genre, Bob Marley music. There were several live bands that played the music both the the immediate area exiting the ship and in the shopping area, so we were definitely serenaded into a Jamaican mood. As we entered the shopping area we were greeted by colorfully costumed stilt walkers with whom I took my daughter’s picture for a small tip. One might usually find such stilt walkers during a festival or parade. There was also a machete master coconut and fruit vendor. I saw him beautifully slice up a pineapple for the man in front of me, first removing the peel, then the little burs and then slicing the flower shaped pieces into a plastic bag. My daughter just wanted a coconut juice drink, so he opened it up with a few slices of the machete and placed a straw in it.
All in all, I have to say that though it was a very limited view of Jamaica, the port area offers a nice taste of Jamaican culture with-out the time or expense of an actual excursion. If you want to venture outside of the port area the cruise lines and independent tour operators offer many different experiences including plantation tours, river tubing, river rafting, Dunns River Falls and resort day passes. For more pictures of our day, please visit our Jamaica Mon Photo Gallery.